From Snoqualmie to nuclear subs, Zetec builds inspection tech

The Snoqualmie-based company builds ultrasound and eddy current testing tech.

From humble beginnings in an Issaquah barn, the now Snoqualmie-based Zetec has been on an upward trajectory for the past 50 years.

Zetec is an engineering and manufacturing company that makes testing tools and software used by a variety of customers including the U.S. Navy and airplane manufacturer Boeing. Zetec president Wayne Wilkinson said the company focuses on creating eddy current and ultrasound technology.

“Basically what we do is look for flaws in materials either in the surface or inside of tubes,” he said.

Eddy current technology sends an electrical current through metal and measures the consistency of an object, sometimes up to six feet from the surface. Ultrasound is used to inspect composite materials by shooting sound energy through a material. Together, the two technologies are used to inspect a wide range of products, from nuclear tubes inside submarines to power plants. The company designs everything associated with their testing technology, from designing the software and components to manufacturing custom delivery devices, like robots used inside nuclear power plants.

“The instruments vary based on the application and the industry, and whether they’re being used in a portable environment,” Wilkinson said.

Zetec was founded in 1968 in a barn just south of Issaquah, and its first contracts were with the Navy and for inspecting steam power plants. As the company grew, it expanded to several offices in Issaquah, but by 2005, Wilkinson said it was time to consolidate into a single facility in Snoqualmie. The company has a large manufacturing facility in Snoqualmie, which doubles as the company’s U.S. and world headquarters, but Zetec has offices in Canada, Europe and Asia.

Zetec currently has about 150 employees in Snoqualmie, some 75 in Quebec and another 70 around the world. The offices abroad are generally sales and support staff while the manufacturing and design happen in North America. While Zetec employees occasionally do inspections with their products, they generally stick to manufacturing. About half of the company’s business comes from the U.S.

“Basically they’re testing material to see if it has a flaw before it is put into a product, or testing it when it is in service,” Wilkinson said.

However, Zetec has been particularly successful in South Korea, where Wilkinson says they have a nearly 100-percent market share in steam generator inspection. Oil and gas corporations, as well as NASA, are also customers. According to the business website Owler, Zetec has an estimated revenue of $63 million with competitors including the U.K.-based Deritend and Bavarian company PRUECHNIK. Zetec was acquired in 2002 by Roper Technologies and operates as an independent company under the Roper corporation.

As for sticking around the Pacific Northwest as they expanded, Wilkinson said Puget Sound is filled with talented software development and manufacturing workers. Zetec pulls from various disciplines, including mechanical and electrical engineers, software developers and sales employees.

“It’s rich from that perspective, and I think it’s still a fairly cost effective place to manufacture in,” Wilkinson said.

As Zetec hits the 50-year milestone, Wilkinson said he hopes to keep growing the company both in North America and around the world. There’s a lot of opportunity to expand in Asia, he said, as well as continuing to diversify into aerospace.

“We’re in an exciting time for our growth and our future, and the 50-year milestone is an impressive milestone for any company,” he said.

Zetec was founded in Issaquah 50 years ago and moved to Snoqualmie in 2005. Its facility in Snoqualmie has both design and manufacturing capabilities. Aaron Kunkler/staff photo

Zetec was founded in Issaquah 50 years ago and moved to Snoqualmie in 2005. Its facility in Snoqualmie has both design and manufacturing capabilities. Aaron Kunkler/staff photo

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